The Palu Mission team

Central Sulawesi Reconnaissance Survey Mission

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Soft story collapse of the Palu Open University building
Soft story collapse of the Palu Open University building

On November 17 to 23, 2018 a collaborative survey team led by TDMRC visited the province of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia on a post-disaster reconnaissance mission. This mission aims to investigate the impact of earthquake, tsunami, and landslide/liquefaction which devastated the city of Palu, Donggala, and Sigi. TDMRC was proud to be appointed as the Indonesian collaboration partner for three research teams namely from the UK, France, and the US/Singapore. Acting as the general team leader was Dr. Ella Meilianda, TDMRC’s coastal morphology and processes expert.

The UK team, named EEFIT (Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team), was comprised of earthquake, tsunami, and geotechnical experts from various UK universities and consultant firms. The collaboration between TDMRC and EEFIT stemmed from the ongoing research collaboration between TDMRC and the University College London (UCL) in a project called INSPIRE: Indonesia School Programme to Increase Resilience. The project runs under Newton Fund Institutional Link, a research grant from the British Council.

TDMRC-EEFIT Team in front of a stranded Indonesian Marine Ship
TDMRC-EEFIT Team in front of a stranded Indonesian Marine Ship

TDMRC-EEFIT team was led by Prof. Tiziana Rossetto (Professor in earthquake and tsunami engineering, University College London) and Dr. Ella Meillianda. The team had the most members of the three teams, it was therefore divided into three subgroups. Subgroup 1 consists of Prof. Tiziana Rossetto, Dr. Yunita Idris (TDMRC’s structural engineering expert), and Rohit Adhikari (UCL PhD student, earthquake engineering specialist). This group was tasked to assess the disaster impact on structures, especially school buildings.

Subgroup 2 was tasked to investigate the coastal damage due to earthquake, tsunami inundation, and land subsidence, as well as its impacts to the communities. These include physical impacts, such as change in water quality, and psychological impacts along with the government’s response to them. Subgroup 2 consists of Dr. Ella Meilianda, Prof. Alison Raby (Professor of Environmental Fluid Mechanics, Plymouth University), Dr David Robinson (Research Associate in Tsunami Modelling, UCL), Mohammad Rezkhi (PhD student on road infrastructure resilience, University of Newcastle), and Intan Dewi Kumala, M.Si (TDMRC’s psycho-social specialist).

TDMRC-EEFIT team in Petobo, one of the liquefaction sites
TDMRC-EEFIT team in Petobo, one of the liquefaction sites

Subgroup 3 of TDMRC-EEFIT team was to investigate earthquake faults and the cause of landslide and liquefaction that occurred in the inner land of Palu and Sigi. This group was comprised of Dr Andrew Brennan (Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering, University of Dundee), Richard Lagesse (Chartered Engineering Geologist, Ove Arup & Partners Singapore, Ltd), and Ibnu Rusydy (TDMRC’s geological engineering specialist).

The TDMRC-France team focused on the bathymetry of the shallow waters to investigate the possibility of tsunami-inducing underwater avalanche. The group also investigated the impact of landslide and liquefaction in the inner land of Palu and Sigi. This collaborative mission was made possible by the partnership agreement between University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne and Universitas Syiah Kuala, which has been running for two years. For the Palu mission, the France team was made up of Dr. Jean-Philippe Goiran (geo-archeologist, CNRS/University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne) as the leader, along with Dr. Gilles Brocard (ISTERRE, University of Grenoble), Stoil Chapkinsky (PhD student in geology, University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne), and Dedy Alfian (TDMRC’s spatial geohazard specialist) as the members.

The last team in the mission was the American/Singaporean team, which was made up of paleo-tsunami and paleo-environment experts from the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), Nanyang Techology University (NTU). This team was comprised of Prof. Adam Switzer (Professor of coastal hazards; EOS, NTU) as the leader, Dr. Jedrzej Majewski (paleo-tsunami expert; EOS, NTU), Dr. Peter Parham (sea-level and tectonic movement expert), and Dr. Benazir (TDMRC’s tsunami modelling expert). In their mission, the group obtained samples of tsunami traces both from the recent and hypothetically ancient ones to be analyzed at EOS. The collaborative work was the result of the intensive collaboration building between TDMRC and EOS in the recent years.

TDMRC delegations meeting with Prof. Merry Napitupulu of Universitas Tadulako
TDMRC delegations meeting with Prof. Merry Napitupulu of Universitas Tadulako

In addition to the surveys, TDMRC took opportunity to push further the partnership initiative with Universitas Tadulako. Serious communication had been established between the Rector of Universitas Syiah Kuala and the Rector of Universitas Tadulako. TDRMC team then visited the university on the first day of the mission to meet Prof. Mery Napitupulu, MSc. PhD., the Vice Rector IV, and Prof. Dr. Amar, ST., MT., the Dean of Engineering Faculty.

Two topics were discussed in this occasion, namely possibility for long term collaboration in disaster research and potential for collaboration in the Palu reconnaissance survey. The university responded positively. On November 22, TDMRC team was invited to Universitas Tadulako again by Prof. Amar to meet the university’s researchers. The meeting resulted in new insights on the actual situation in Central Sulawesi and in the confirmation of the key findings of the survey.